Story by Lynn Cook
Photo by Olivier Koning
Auntie Paulette Kahalepuna’s museum-quality feather lei have been a hit since the first Made in Hawaii Festival nineteen years ago. Jimmy Chan overcame his doubts about making enough taro and sweet potato chips in his apartment kitchen for the three-day event, and now his Hawaiian Chip Company is a testament to “cook it and they will come” marketing. Rex Moribe missed the bottles of chili pepper water that were once as ubiquitous as shoyu on Island tables, so he decided to bottle and sell his family recipe. Apparently other Island residents missed it as much as he did; he sold out eight hundred bottles of Da Secret Sauce at last year’s festival, and he’s prepared two thousand for this year’s. Lauren Roth has a waiting list for her Yellow Bird Bohemia trucker hats, hand-painted with hammerhead sharks. And if you need a perfectly tuned ocarina in the shape of a boxfish, Forbidden Island Flutes will provide.
All of these products—and hundreds more —will be on offer at the Made in Hawaii Festival, the annual peak experience for the shopping Hawai‘i-phile. The nineteenth festival will be held this August 16 to 18 at the Blaisdell Arena & Exhibition Hall. In her fourteen years as director, Amy Hammond has seen the event grow from seventy to 420 booths. “A dream job,” she says. “I go shopping!” The tough part, she says, is convincing the vendors to produce more and also to travel from communities throughout the Islands to Honolulu to sell their homegrown wares: shell and silver jewelry, books, fine art, feather lei, koa furniture, hula implements, handmade quilts, T-shirts, even aquaponics systems — all of it made (or mostly made) in Hawai‘i. State law mandates that anything bearing the “Made in Hawaii” logo be at least 51 percent Island-made, including the raw materials.
The festival isn’t only about shopping: Hawai‘i’s top chefs serve up fried green tomatoes, mango chutney, dozens of dips and chips, cookies, teas and Aikane Plantation’s Ka‘u coffee. And when your feet tire of wandering the labyrinth of booths and vendors, you can always take a break in the Pikake Room, where throughout the festival Na Hoku Hanohano Award-winning musicians like Jerry Santos, Kapena, Nathan Aweau and Melveen Leed offer one more thing made in Hawai‘i.